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by Tim Beissmann

The boss of BMW’s M division says he believes there is serious potential in high-performance versions of the company’s new three-cylinder engine for its future compact sports cars.

Speaking with US publication Car and Driver, BMW M president Friedrich Nitschke described the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine destined for the BMW 1 Series and third-generation Mini Cooper, among others, as an “attractive engine” to his division.

“It is possible to reach around 185-200hp (138-149kW) per litre in a forced-induction three-cylinder and we have 1.5 litres of displacement,” Nitschke explained.

“Such an engine – which, by the way, sounds very similar to a six-cylinder engine – would have over 310hp (231kW). And we are not even at the limit there.

“Generally speaking, I could imagine such an engine.”


The highly impressive anticipated figures would put the three-cylinder engine on par with the 235kW 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six of the BMW M135i hot-hatch (above), despite the new engine being half its size and having half as many cylinders.

The engine would be an obvious fit for a high-performance 1 Series model, and potentially sporty variants of the 3 Series and the upcoming city crossover based on the BMW Concept Active Tourer from last year’s Paris motor show.

Nitschke also denied any interest in following the lead of Audi and Mercedes-Benz in making all-wheel-drive versions of future BMW M cars.

“We discuss the topic with our customers in a regular fashion, and it emerges that they are very happy with rear-wheel drive,” he said.

“For those who think otherwise, we offer the X5 M and X6 M and our M Performance models.

“An all-wheel-drive system means 150-200 pounds (68-91kg) more weight, and a clear loss of precision in steering. Ultimately, the competition between the brands would be narrowed to straight-line performance.

“And, by the way, we do not believe that this would be a sustainable approach.”